Technology solutions in the prison industrial complex

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  • Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow - how the war on drugs creates felons with a 2nd class status in society. And how this disproportionally impacts communities of color and poor persons. It creates an oppressive system for people who have been labelled with this status which makes it difficult to gain a job, housing, etc.


  • Are there any ways that technologists can help eradicate the Prison Industrial Complex?


Introductions and Reasons for Interest


  • From point of view of journalism and foster parent.


  • Disgusting how many people we have in prison - slave labor, waste of human resources, ecological issues.


  • See if we can figure out how we can breakdown the problem into different things to tackle.


  • Have some organizing experience. There are a lot human rights abuses. Prisoners probably don't have a lot of resources. People in prison get a lot of hope from getting a letter, news from the outside - knowing that people on the outside do care. There is a political prison, Morgan, Black Panther recently released. There's a lot of people who are very vulnerable. Working to connect people in this population who are interested in learning tech.


  • A developer who learned through a developer camp. Trying to get more people in tech who wouldn't be in tech. Related to reaching people to help people empower themselves and learn more tech.


  • Formerly incarcerated people should be the preferred name, with emphasis on "people." Reform policy and remove barriers to access - labor issue, opportunities for techs to get involved. Tapping into organizations that exist to assess their needs. Raising awareness of the other issues that come along with being imprisoned. Mass incarceration is a racial issue.


  • Works with Color of Change - working on data visualization around police violence (esp people killed by police without due process). Between the Bars ways for prisoners to blog (using postal system and then it being put into a digital form). Why did it fail? Perhaps trust and getting the word out.


  • Working at Exygy - project with small entrepreneurs - learn how to build businesses for people who have been incarcerated. Short-term vs long-term goals.


  • Some of the starting points are some of the cascading effects around job issues for formerly incarcerated people. People who can't access employment. A lot of companies would like to bring in formerly incarcerated people [FIP] (they have a reputation for working hard) but the insurance can be prohibitively high when employing FIP. Looking at jobs is a good place to start. Duke University is doing some work around this.


  • Stop and Frisk app - videotape an incident and create a larger awareness. Keep calm and film the police. Option to shut it down and lock it if the police were coming toward you.


  • Need help with interactive mapping. There is a ton of data that is available that would be helpful if it can be visualize. State of North Carolina has records of every traffic stop - race of person, officer ID, info on the stop - using the data to demonstrate that there is profiling with stop and search. This could lead to consequences for the officers if the stop and searches are based on discriminatory practices. One solution to showing there is a racial bias - persuading cities and states with facts that there is a problem.


  • Struggle because when you say to someone that they are racist; they claim they are not. Figuring out how to address the deep seated prejudices and how to persons get all the way to "oh, I guess I am racists" and do we need that to change policy. Of course, all of this presupposes the need for policing.


  • Restorative justice - instead of having police, the community takes care of their own community.


  • A collective in the Bay Area has come up with website, a lot of efforts to gather information and victims of police misconduct. Ways to document what each police officer has done. People have a profile that allows families to connect with each others to address certain incidences. Less trying to visualize the data to prove there's a problem and instead connecting the families.


  • How to connect with people that are working with prison abolition, prison reform - is there a sense of what the hard problems are that they are facing? Problems around communications. It seems helpful if prisoners voices can be heard. It's a very silenced community. Or do policies in prison prevent that?


  • Prisoners and families of those incarcerated were using Yelp to rate prisons.


  • Decriminalizing drug offences and using technology to raise awareness of this. It's really hard to prove that there is a biased. Is there a way to make interactive data, multimedia storytellers to show this is an issue that can persuade folks to a change policies. Prop 45 - decriminalizes non-violent drug crimes retroactively.


  • Voices of those who are incarcerated. Figuring out a way to register for people that there are a whole lot of people who are criminalized - we know some basic facts, how can we talk about who is able to do the same actions without impunity. Drawing out the tensions that some people are getting away with something others are getting imprisoned for.


  • Profound differences in how children of color are treated in school - suspension vs parents being called.


  • People are imprisoned far from their homes; making it difficult for family members to visit. Perhaps tech around ride sharing or Uber-like rides to get families to prisons.


  • Have you smoked pot this week - you may want to consider putting money toward x (round up your tip that goes to funding tech for people who are incarcerated and their families).


  • Because of the things I've done if I was black or brown I would be dead or in prison. Raising awareness of this point. The other tack is building things that help people cope with ways of being in touch, support, and self organize people in prison and their communities - things that have to be accessible to those communities.


  • Teaching those communities so they can make their own tools.


  • Organizing with foster parents. How to put energy into the children and support their relationship with their parents. And how hard it is for kids to talk on the phone.